- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

A Nickles challenge?

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Don Nickles is exploring a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, CNN's Jonathan Karl reports.

Mr. Nickles, of Oklahoma, has met with Republican senators and Republican senatorial candidates, Mr. Karl said.

Mr. Nickles is term-limited from his present leadership position next year.

Torricelli's low numbers

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, fares poorly in a poll measuring his strength against three no-name Republican rivals.

Although Mr. Torricelli led in the poll, he did not break 50 percent against any of the Republicans, which is considered a strong sign of vulnerability for an incumbent. He is up for re-election in November.

State Sen. Diane Allen, a former TV anchor, was the leading Republican in the Quinnipiac University survey. She trailed Mr. Torricelli 44 percent to 32 percent. However, a month ago, she was behind by 19 percentage points.

The Democrat led state Sen. John Matheussen 46 percent to 31 percent. A month before, Mr. Matheussen had trailed by 24 percentage points.

Businessman Douglas Forrester trailed 47 percent to 29 percent. Previously, Mr. Forrester was behind by 27 percentage points.

"It's bad news for Torricelli because three literally unknown Republicans can get 30 percent against him" Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carrol said. Once this goes to a one-on-one contest, it could be a real horse race.

The survey of 837 registered voters had a margin of error of 3.4 percent, the New York Post reports.

Wishful thinking

Articles in the latest issues of the New Republic and the Washington Monthly tout Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, as a Democratic candidate for president in 2004. But a longtime McCain adviser pooh-poohs the idea.

"It's not going to happen. I have never heard a discussion of him either running for president again and certainly not as a Democrat," said Marshall Wittmann, a McCain campaign adviser.

"Both articles are expressions of frustrations about the current Democratic presidential field, which right now looks boring and retro," said Mr. Wittmann, a political strategist at the Hudson Institute.

"It is wishful thinking from some Democrats to think that McCain is in the mainstream of the Democratic Party when he disagrees with them on some very significant issues, ranging from missile defense to pro-life issues to school choice to Social Security privatization," he told Washington Times reporter Donald Lambro.

Mr. McCain, in TV appearances this week, emphatically denied any interest in leaving the Republican Party to seek the Democratic nomination.

Mr. Wittmann also said he was not surprised that John Weaver, who managed Mr. McCain's bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, decided to change parties. "I had a sense that he was moving in that direction," he said.

The reasons why Mr. Weaver jumped to the Democrats? "It was a combination of his own personal views changing and the fact that certain powers in the Republican Party were denying him professional options, business, and certain very petty retaliatory attacks on him in the Republican hierarchy," Mr. Wittmann said.

Graduation day

Thirty years after enrolling at Utah State University, an Idaho dentist who happens to be a congressman will finally get his undergraduate degree next month.

On May 4, Rep. Mike Simpson will don cap and gown and with 3,236 other graduates will be awarded a diploma. His will read "bachelor's of science in pre-dentistry," the Associated Press reports.

"I was accepted to dental school while still an undergraduate," said Mr. Simpson, 52. "I'd always intended to complete the paperwork needed to finish my bachelor's degree. But I was busy with dental school, then dental practice, family, and starting a political career, and, well, the years just flew by."

The Republican entered the Washington University School of Dental Medicine in St. Louis in 1974, and, upon graduation, joined his father and uncle in the family practice in Blackfoot, Idaho. His political career began in 1980, when he was elected to the Blackfoot City Council.

Mr. Simpson was missing some credits at Utah State, said Randy Simmons, a political science professor who learned of the congressman's situation while touring Capitol Hill to promote his school.

Mr. Simmons said transfer agreements already were in place to give Mr. Simpson undergraduate credit for classes he took at Washington University.

"No strings were pulled," Mr. Simmons said.

Filling party coffers

Pop star Michael Jackson and former President Bill Clinton brought hundreds of Democratic supporters to Harlem Wednesday to raise nearly $3 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Jackson, in a rare public appearance, performed briefly for a crowd of about 1,400 people who stood, swayed and screamed his name as he appeared on stage in a sparkling white jacket, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr. Clinton spoke only a few words before the pop star's appearance and did not join in on saxophone as many in the audience had hoped but the two big names helped reap $2.7 million for party coffers, said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Ticket prices ranged from $125 to $5,000, party officials said.

The money will go toward voter registration, they said.

Mr. Clinton told the crowd that voting was important because it builds a sense of community.

"With all the stuff going on in the world, September 11, turmoil in the Middle East, conflicts all over the world, we're in America trying to build a community in which everybody can respect his or her own race or religion and still be a part of a larger community," he said.

"The only way we can do that is if everybody feels that he or she has a part of the citizenship pie."

Ruben Blades and crooners Tony Bennett and K.D. Lang also performed at the event in Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, not far from Mr. Clinton's offices.

Clinton's prediction

Bill Clinton predicts that the Democrats will pick up 12 to 15 U.S. House seats in November's elections, which would be more than enough for the Democrats to take back control of that branch of Congress.

When asked about Democratic prospects by CNN's Judy Woodruff in an interview Wednesday, Mr. Clinton at first shied away from making a prediction, but then warmed to the subject.

"I don't know. I think it will be a close race. I think the redistricting didn't change as many people as we thought. So we get about I think we're about net down two or three in the redistricting, depending on what happens in Pennsylvania. But I think we can win somewhere between 12 to 15. I think the House will still be quite closely divided," Mr. Clinton said.

The former president then added this puzzling remark: "Even if we win, I think we have a pretty good chance to win."

Close contest

"The race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Marge Roukema [of New Jersey] is attracting a lot of attention, in part because no one is sure how it is going to come out," United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.

"Assemblyman Scott Garrett, who challenged Roukema in the party primary twice before has been thought to be the front-runner. But a new survey by McLaughlin & Associates undertaken for state Sen. Gerry Cardinale shows Cardinale has the most support with 32 percent of the 300 likely GOP primary voters surveyed. Garrett is second at 26 percent. Assemblyman Dave Russo is third at 9 percent. 'Undecided' led the field at 33 percent."

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